Joe Rossi earns job as Gophers defensive coordinator
Madison, Wis. After a three-week audition in which the defense did a 180-degree turn, Joe Rossi was promoted to Gophers defensive coordinator by coach P.J. Fleck following Saturdays 37-15 victory over Wisconsin.
Rossi was named interim defensive coordinator after Fleck fired Robb Smith following the 55-31 loss at Illinois on Nov. 3, and the defense responded. The Gophers had given up an average of 43.2 points and 507.7 yards in the six Big Ten games under Smith. When Rossi took over, the Gophers gave up 233 yards in a 41-10 victory over Purdue, 325 in a 24-14 loss to Northwestern and 359 to Wisconsin.
When I told our team what we were doing [in the locker room after the game], they went absolutely ballistic, Fleck said of Rossis promotion. He deserved it. This isnt a gift. He earned it.
That showed Saturday, as the Gophers held Badgers running back Jonathan Taylor, the nations leading rusher, to 120 yards on 19 carries, nearly 50 yards less than his average. They also intercepted Alex Hornibrook three times and recovered one of Wisconsins four fumbles.
I felt we had to get back to the basic part of what we do, and then expand from there, Fleck said. Joe does a really good job of that. He basically did a whole year self-scout within a week when we went into the Purdue game.
Added Gophers linebacker Thomas Barber: We love that guy. Were all excited for him.
Rallying for Cashman
The Gophers had to play without leading tackler Blake Cashman for most of the game after the linebacker was ejected for targeting early in the second quarter.
The Gophers punted from their 5-yard line, and Cashman delivered a hard hit to Badgers punt returner Jack Dunn just as he caught the ball. Referees called targeting, and the call was upheld upon review.
The entire season youve seen Blake Cashman play with the most amount of energy and passion Ive ever seen, Gophers linebacker Carter Coughlin said. Blake goes out, and it quickly switches to, Were doing this for Blake.
Senior Julian Huff took Cashmans place and finished with four tackles and an interception.
Defensive tackle O.J. Smith returned after missing six games because of a concussion. He finished with three tackles. Defensive back Terell Smith returned after missing last weeks game against Northwestern because of a leg injury. He also had three tackles.
Among the bowl representatives attending was John Mosley, senior manager of the Pinstripe Bowl, which will be played Dec. 27 at Yankee Stadium in New York. Mosley said he was at the game to watch both teams. The bowl pits a Big Ten team against a team from the ACC. Citrus Bowl and Holiday Bowl representatives were at the game to scout Wisconsin.
The Badgers saw their 10-game winning streak in trophy games end. They play the Gophers for Paul Bunyans Axe, Iowa for the Heartland Trophy and Nebraska for the Freedom Trophy. Since 2010, Wisconsin is 19-2 in those games.